Do You Pray “by the Seat of your pants”

Do You Pray “by the Seat of your pants”

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer Part 1

“Fly by the Seat of your pants” – Where did this saying come from? And how does it relate to prayer?

Free Style Pilot

Douglas Corrigan was a pilot who flew without any navigational aids. While he survived, his adventure gave rise to the phrase to ‘fly by the seat of your pants’, which  means  “to decide a course of action as you go along, using your own initiative and perceptions rather than a predetermined plan or mechanical aids”.(1)

The simulator is an interesting piece of equipment in the professional world. Pilots have to go into a simulator once every  6 months to go over the basics of emergency procedures. This is done to ensure that when a true emergency occurs, pilots are instinctively ready to do the right things. 

I wonder how you would feel if you were in a plane flown by a pilot who refused to follow the usual protocols or go for their yearly “Line Checks” (a process similar to taking a driving test every year). Would you like your pilot to fly by the “seat of his pants”?

Free Style Prayer

How effective is this “free approach” to any activity? If that is your approach to prayer, does your prayer appear scattershot and ineffective?

Why then do so many Christians pray “by the seat of their pants”? Many believers have a hard time with personal prayer. Practice of prayer is often infrequent, and even if a person tries to have a daily devotional, there are many distractions.  Some prayers are rote and repetitious e.g. grace before meals, and a quick thought of “O Lord” is considered a prayer.

The Prayer of Jesus

Is this what our Lord had in mind when he taught his disciples how to pray? 

When Jesus was with his disciples, they already had a long tradition of prayer. A number of prayers taken form the OT was being used for various times of the day and for rituals. These “berakot” prayers usually started with “Blessed Are You, O Lord, Our God Ruler of the Universe” or similar. 

The disciples were Jews, who would have been using these prayers, so why did they ask Jesus to teach them how to pray? Did they not know how to pray? Obviously, they felt something was missing.

Jesus must have taught them the prayer many times during His ministry. Matthew and Luke give us a record of the Lord’s Prayer.

Please read Matthew 6:5-15

Jesus helped them understand how to pray:

a.     God is our Father (v.9) and always knows what we need, yet wants us to ask Him, like a child would ask a father for something. It reflects our dependance and trust in God, when we come to him in prayer, starting by acknowledging our dependance.

b.     Jesus did not want a theatrical approach to prayer (v. 5). Structured prayer is good if it is used in public in humbleness and contriteness. Even better, such prayer is loved by God when done in private (v.6).

So why the Lord’s Prayer?

Could Jesus not have worked with all the “Blessed are you..” prayers that the Jews had been using for centuries?

Jesus did not want vain repetitions (v.7) i.e.  “For they think they will be heard for their many words”. This is common in non-Christian religions.  This is something we should remember, as we hear many repetitions in prayer in some churches today, in direct contravention of what Jesus said. And the Jews were doing the same. Also, private prayer ended up as a series of repetitive requests and supplications.

Jesus’s structured prayer helps train us, like pilots, to be able to pray effectively even on auto pilot mode. Once we pray as Jesus taught us in the proper way, it will deepen our walk with God and help us navigate difficulties of life experiencing a supernatural peace that surpasses all understanding.

In my next post, I will expand on the Lord’s Prayer, and discuss how using it as a structure will help us develop a vibrant prayer life. 


+ Rt Rev Dr Raj. This post is from the personal blog of Bp Joshua Raj at


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